Cars, people and events in this week’s Motoring Milestones include: GM sit down strike, Porsche, Swedish Grand Prix, Wolseley Motors, and Chicago Auto Show.
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100 years ago this week, Glenn H. Curtiss unveiled his Autoplane, probably the world’s first roadworthy airplane, at
the Pan-American Aeronautic Exposition in New York City [8 February 1917]….. 90 years ago this week, William Morris, using his own money purchased Wolseley Motors at auction for £730,000, possibly to stop General Motors who subsequently bought Vauxhall [9 February 1927]. Other bidders beside General Motors included the Austin Motor Company. Herbert Austin, Wolseley’s founder, was said to have been very distressed that he was unable to buy it. Morris had bought an early taxicab, another Wolseley link with Morris was that his Morris Garages were Wolseley agents in Oxford.Morris had tried to produce a 6-cylinder car and not been successful. He still wanted his range to include a light six-cylinder car. Wolseley’s 2-litre six-cylinder 16-45, their latest development of their postwar Fifteen, “made a deep impression on him”. Morris incorporated a new company, Wolseley Motors (1927) Limited, he was later permitted to remove the (1927), and consolidated its production at the sprawling Ward End Works in Birmingham. In 1935, Wolseley became a subsidiary of Morris’ own Morris Motor Company and the Wolseley models soon became based on Morris designs. It became part of the Nuffield Organisation along with Morris and Riley/Autovia in 1938. After the war, Morris and Wolseley production was consolidated at Cowley, and badge engineering took hold. The first post-war Wolseleys, the similar 4/50 and 6/80 models, were based on the Morris Oxford MO. Later, Wolseleys shared with MG and Riley common bodies and chassis, namely the 4/44 and 6/90, which were closely related to the MG Magnette ZA/ZB and the Riley Pathfinder respectively. Other badge engineering exploits followed at BMC. In 1957 the Wolseley 1500 was based on the planned successor to the Morris Minor. The next year, the Wolseley 15/60 debuted the new mid-sized BMC saloon design penned by Pinin Farina. It was followed by similar vehicles from five marques within the year. The tiny Wolseley Hornet was based on the Mini but the booted body style was shared with Riley as the Elf. Finally, a version of the Austin 1800 was launched in 1967 as the Wolseley 18/85. The Riley marque, long overlapping with Wolseley, was retired in 1969. Wolseley continued in diminished form with the Wolseley Six of 1972, a variant of the six-cylinder Austin 1800, the Austin 2200. It was finally killed off just three years later in favour of the short-lived Wolseley 18-22 series saloon, which was based on the Leyland Princess (also known as the 18-22 series) and never even given a clear name, being badged just “Wolseley”, and sold only for seven months until that range was renamed as the Princess. Today, the Wolseley marque is owned by Nanjing Automobile Group bought as part of the assets of the MG Rover Group. Note that the Wolseley Sheep Shearing Company continued trading, and continues today as Wolseley plc….. 85 years ago this week, David Evans, driving the Cummins No.8 Diesel Special
at Daytona Beach raised the land speed record for this type of vehicle to 100.755 mph [7 February 1931].The car was a racing chassis built by Fred Duesenberg with a 4-cylinder ‘Model U’ diesel engine designed by Clessie L Cummins. It was the first diesel engine produced with fully enclosed reciprocating parts, with full-pressure lubrication. Its output was a jaw-dropping 10hp per cylinder. In May of 1931 Clessie took the Cummins-Powered Duesenberg as the No. 8 Cummins Diesel to the Indy 500 and finished 13th with an average speed of just over 86 mph. It was the first car in racing history to complete all 500 miles without any pit stops. The No. 8 car wasn’t retired after the race. Cummins founders W.G. Irwin and Clessie Cummins drove it on a European tour through France, Monaco, Italy, Germany and England to promote the efficiency and reliability of the diesels. In the 1960s, the No. 8 Cummins Diesel was restored and now permanently resides at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway museum. Clessie Cummins showcased the importance of efficient diesel technology to people around the world. It’s a legacy that we continue to honor today….. 80 years ago this week, after a difficult 44-day sit-down strike at the Fisher Body plant in Flint, Michigan, General Motors (GM) President Alfred P. Sloan signed the first union contract in the history of the U.S. automobile industry [11 February 1937]. Organised by the Union of Auto Workers (UAW), the strike was intended to force
GM to give ground to its workers. GM workers had protested before, and they’d been fired and replaced for it. The UAW decided they needed to achieve the total shutdown of a working plant in order to bring company executives to the negotiating table. On New Year’s Eve, 45 minutes after lunch, union leaders ordered the assembly line halted. Executives kept the belts running, but the workers wouldn’t work. GM turned to the courts, winning an injunction against the workers on the grounds that the sit-down strike was unconstitutional. The injunction was overturned when it was discovered that the judge who presided in the case owned over $200,000 of GM stock. Twelve days after the strike had begun, with the workers still dug in, Sloan ordered the heat in the building turned off and barred the workers access to food from the outside. Police, armed with tear gas and guns, surrounded the building. The police fired–first tear gas and later bullets–into the plant. Sympathetic picketers outside, many of them family members of the strikers, helped to break all the windows in the plant by hurling rocks from were they stood. Others, braver still, broke the picket line with their automobiles to form a barricade that prevented the police vehicles from overrunning the building the strikers occupied. Finally, days after the Battle of the Running Bulls, as the violent confrontation came to be known, Michigan Governor Frank Murphy called in the National Guard with the intention of quelling any further violence. The presence of the National Guard bolstered the strikers’ confidence. Realizing the futility of their position, GM executives came to the bargaining table. After a week of negotiations over which Governor Murphy personally presided, an agreement between GM and the UAW was reached…… 75 years ago this week, the US federal government ordered passenger car production to be stopped and converted to wartime purposes [7 February 1942]. In spite of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s insistence that the US car industry should become the “great arsenal of democracy,” Detroit’s executives were reluctant to join the war cause. However, following the bombing of Pearl Harbour, the country mobilised behind the US’s declaration of war. The government offered car manufacturers guaranteed profits regardless of production costs throughout the war years. Furthermore, the Office of Production Management allocated $11 billion to the construction of war manufacturing plants that would be sold to the automobile manufacturers at remarkable discounts after the war. What had at first seemed like a burden on the automotive industry became a boon. The production demands placed on the industry and the resources allocated to the individual automobile manufacturers during the war would revolutionize American car making and bring about the Golden Era of the 1950s…… 70 years ago this week, the Swedish Winter Grand Prix was held on a circuit surrounding a Swedish Air Force site at Rommehed [9 February 1947]. Only three cars, all visiting British ERAs, finished after the ship carrying the bulk of the grid was not able to make its destination. The race was won by Reg Parnell driving an ERA A-Type…… 60 years ago this week, The first yellow ‘no parking’ lines in Britain, were introduced in Slough, Buckinghamshire [12 February 1957]…. On the same day [12 February 1957] Jaguar’s Browns Lane factory and several hundred cars were destroyed by fire. They started building cars at Browns Lane in 1952, having acquired the huge Browns Lane plant, left over from WW II, from the U.K. government. The company was building exciting cars and needed more room to expand production. Timing was important. The move from their original Coventry factory at Foleshill was orchestrated with great care. Machinery was installed at each work area overnight or on weekends and materials supplied at the new site. The operators ended a shift in the old factory and started
the next one at Browns Lane with no loss of production. Over the years, Jaguar continued to expand, acquiring Daimler in 1960, which gave them much-needed factory space at nearby Radford to build engines, axle assemblies and other components. A WWII Spitfire aircraft factory at Castle Bromwich, half an hour away, was re-made into Jaguar’s body and paint plant. Trucks carrying bodies, engines and other components roared through the big iron gates on Browns Lane, feeding the assembly lines all day long. Browns Lane is a mainly residential street in the Coventry district of Allesley. For years, the locals put up with the truck traffic and the stream of new cars pouring in and out of the gates for their on-the-road test. However, as production inched up from four figures annually towards the mid-fives, enough was enough and protests were organized. Eventually, with Coventry planning permission, Jaguar closed the Browns Lane gates and opened a new entrance at the rear of the property through an area called Coundon Wedge. With heavy investment by Ford, the production lines were modernized and car quality improved to J.D. Power Award-winning standards. The new operation was so quiet that you could hold a conversation next to the assembly line where, in the old days, the racket called for ear plugs. In the end, however, production at Browns Lane was defeated by the lack of a rail line. Jaguar’s new X-Type factory at Halewood had its own siding and a rail link was built for the Castle Bromwich plant. Cars moved off the production line and traveled a couple of hundred yards to be loaded on rail cars and taken to the docks. Much more efficient than the dozens of diesel trucks passing through Browns Lane every day. Manufacturing at the historic plant stopped in July 2005. Though the offices, experimental facilities and woodshop stayed for a while, by the end of 2006 the plant was empty and up for sale….. 40 years ago this week, the Porsche Carrera RSR of John Graves/Hurley Haywood/Dave Helmick won the Daytona 24 Hours Sports Car race at Daytona International Speedway [6 February 1977]. The race was round 1 of the 1977 World Championship for Makes. The winners finished 2 laps ahead of the Porsche 935 of Martino Finotto/Carlo Facetti/Romeo Camathias…… 35 years ago this week, Carlos Reutemann won the disputed South African Grand Prix in a Williams – the race did not count towards the FIA World Championship as it was not sanctioned, but one used as leverage by FISA in an ongoing battle with the governing body [7 February 1981]. It was probably the last Formula Libre race staged as the cars did not conform to FIA rules prohibiting the use of skirts. Ferrari, Renault and Alfa Romeo refused to have anything to do with the race in which Reutemann led from start to finish in drying conditions after stealing a march on his rivals by switching to dry tyres minutes before the start. “FOCA have proved themselves capable of staging a race,” wrote Maurice Hamilton in the Guardian, “but even the most ardent enthusiasts had to admit that a race without Ferrari was like an international rugby championship without Wales.”….. as they did every year, crowds lined up early to get in to the 1987 Chicago Auto Show [7 February 1981]. Although their primary objective was to get a glimpse of the latest models, the fortunate few were able to see sports legends Walter Payton and Michael Jordan up close. Cadillac had a fresh idea in 1987, turning out the two-passenger Allante convertible as a rival to the Mercedes-Benz 560SL. Riding a shortened Eldorado chassis, it had bodywork designed and built by Pininfarina in Italy. Among Buick’s contribution were a series of performance cars based on the old rear-drive Regal coupe. In addition to the Grand National, the limited-edition Buick GNX went on sale in 1987, built by ASC Inc., with a $30,000 price tag. Only 500 were produced…… 30 years ago this week, American driver Andy Linden died aged 64 [10 February 1987]. After serving as a US marine, this colossus of a man raced in seven grand prix when the Indianapolis 500 was a part of the Formula One championship. He had shown huge amounts of skill as a sprint and midget racer and finished in the top six at three of the Indy 500s he competed in. His career ended when he was left brain-damaged after a shard of metal pierced his helmet during a race in 1957. He was confined to a wheelchair but learned to walk again before his death……Dennis Poore a British entrepreneur, financier and sometime racing driver, died in Kensington, London aged 70 [12 February 1987]. He used his personal wealth to bankroll the founding, in 1950, of the motor racing journal Autosport. He was briefly involved in the Connaught team and raced two Grands Prix for the team, his best result being a 4th place finish at the 1952 British GP. He later raced successfully in the Aston Martin sports car team, sold off the propeller business and tried in vain to save Britain’s motorcycle industry by buying Associated Motorcycles, the company which owned Norton, AJS and Matchless, also acquiring Villiers, Triumph and BSA. With the motorbike business having failed, Manganese Bronze developed a car component division, which Dennis ran until his death……. 10 years ago this week, Henry George (Harry) Webster, CBE was a British automotive engineer who inspired the creation of iconic Triumph cars throughout the 1950s and 1960s died aged 89 [6 February 2007]…… Scottish transport group FirstGroup purchased Laidlaw International for $3.6 billion [7 February 2007]. Although FirstGroup’s interest was primarily the school and transit bus operations of Laidlaw, FirstGroup retained the Greyhound operations and in 2009 exported the brand back to the United Kingdom as Greyhound UK. Today, Greyhound’s 1,229 buses serve over 3,800 destinations in North America, traveling 5.5 billion miles (8.8 billion km) on North America’s roads…… Scion, a marque of vehicles produced by Toyota Motor Corporation founded in 2003, unveiled two models, the xB, based on the t2B concept, and the new xD, successor of the xA, at the 2007 Chicago Auto Show [8 February 2007]. Scion grew from Toyota Project Genesis, a failed effort to bring younger buyers to the Toyota marque in the United States…… The Chicago Auto Show opened to
the public [9 February 2007]. Featured on the cover of the 2007 Chicago Auto Show program, were the GMC Acadia, Hyundai Azera and Volkswagen. These vehicles were awarded three lucky individuals that held winning tickets during the First Look For Charity black-tie benefit. Nineteen area charities shared in more than $2.8 million raised by the 2007 Chicago Auto Show’s benevolent event…… 5 years ago this week, American author and the ‘Moving On’ columnist for The Wall Street Journal, Jeffrey Zaslow (53),was killed when he lost control of his car on a snow-covered M-32 and was hit by a semi-truck near Elmira, Michigan, US [11 February 2012]. Zaslow was widely known as coauthor of best-selling books including The Last Lecture (2008) with Randy Pausch; Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters with Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger (2009); as well as Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope (2011) with Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly. He was the sole author of numerous books, including Tell Me All About It (1990), The Girls from Ames (2009), and The Magic Room (2012). He was twice named by the National Society of Newspaper Columnists as best columnist in a newspaper with more than 100,000 circulation and had received the Distinguished Column Writing Award from the New York Newspaper Publishers Association. While working at the Sun-Times, Zaslow received the Will Rogers Humanitarian Award. He appeared on such television programs as The Tonight Show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, Larry King Live, 60 Minutes, The Today Show and Good Morning America.